KENT COUNTY COUNCIL Thursday 18 October 2018
Question by Antony Hook to Paul Carter, Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Health Reform
REGARDING FAVERSHAM CREEK BRIDGE
A video recording can be viewed on the KCC Webcast system: https://kent.publici.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/374602
Question by Mr Hook
In 2015 Faversham was promised by Kent County Council that if the community raised £125,000, which was quickly done, the Swing Bridge would be rebuilt so that boats could once again pass, creating jobs and enriching our maritime culture. Would the Leader agree that almost four years on it is time for the promise to be fulfilled and a start date for work set?
Answer by Mr Carter
The ambition to restore the Faversham Swing Bridge, lockgates and dredge the basin, goes back many years and to the best of my knowledge is as follows:
The ambition for restoration gained momentum some five years ago, through the activity of several community groups who had the vision and saw the potential of restoring the basin to its former glory. This would allow boat owners to moor in the basin, enjoy the town and in addition, be a valuable tourist attraction. The community formed a steering group incorporating the already established Faversham Creek Trust.
Kent County Council very much wanted to support The Faversham Creek Trust and the Town Council in their vision.
David Brazier, the then Cabinet Member for Planning, Highways, Transport and Waste agreed to Mark Dance’s request (Cabinet Member for Economic Development) for Capital
funding. KCC set a Capital budget allocation of £450,000 which was subsequently increased to £510,000.
The Faversham Creek Trust raised £125,000.
Swale Borough Council pledged £200,000.
Faversham Town Council pledged £170,000.
In 2015, we were advised that the estimate for the work was circa £1.2million and all looked very promising as the budget broadly matched the estimate.
In 2016/17, design and procurement took place, culminating in final tenders being in the order of £2.6 million for the bridge restoration plus an additional £200,000 to repair the lock gates.
This was an exceedingly disappointing outcome and we needed to reflect on how we could solve the gap funding.
It was at my instigation, working alongside officers in Economic Development, that we researched the obligations placed upon the harbour authority, Peel Ports. We sought a QC’s opinion, which indicated that Peel Ports have obligations to restore the bridge to enable it to open and function as a Swing Bridge, including the lock gates.
Peel Ports have been advised of the legal opinion, and we are awaiting their full response. Various reminders have been sent, which culminated in the 14 October 2018 with a response and I quote from the letter from Peel Ports Group: “I can assure you that we are actively working on the matter, but that Peel Ports will not be forced into a formal response until a thorough and robust legal review has been undertaken”.
Supplementary question (summary)
Mr Hook asked why the estimate had been so badly wrong and why legal advice was not sought at the outset and whether, if Mr Carter would not set a date for work to start, he could specify a date when a date for work to start could be set.
Answer to supplementary question (summary)
Mr Carter said the error in the estimate was because a company in Faversham had said they would do it for the lower price then changed their minds. He did not know why legal advice was not sought earlier. It is down to Peel Ports when dates will be set.
All of the above can be watched in full online at the KCC website. https://kent.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/374602